As US continues to experience truck driver shortage, Diesel Driving School sees record enrollment

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — Long hours and uncomfortable working conditions are leading to a shortage of truck drivers, which has compounded shipping delays in the U.S.

According to a report released this fall by the American Trucking Associations, the industry is short 80,000 drivers — a record number — and one association said that could double by 2030 as more and more truckers retire. Some 1,200 truck drivers retire every week in the country.

The report lists a number of additional variables contributing to the shortage, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on driver training and retention to the inability of some drivers to pass drug tests and infrastructure issues like congestion and a lack of truck parking spaces.

It’s estimated the U.S. will need one million more truck drivers in a decade. The average age of a trucker is 49.

All of this has led to record enrollment at the Diesel Truck Driving School near Sun Prairie, one of the nation’s oldest and biggest truck driving schools. In a four-week long course, a student will be eligible to apply for a commercial driver’s license or CDL, which is required to drive a big rig.

Driving a semi-truck is no small task. According to driving instructor Steve Ferdyn, the mere size of a truck and trailer is intimidating.

The hardest part about driving a big rig, Ferdyn said, is double-clutching, but many newer trucks now have automatic transmissions.

Learning to drive is the hard part. Getting a job afterward is the easy part.

Jerry Klabacka, along with his brothers, owns the Diesel Truck Driving School, which his father founded in 1959.

A driver’s chance of landing a job once they have a CDL, he said, is 100%.

“There is not a company in this country with more than half a dozen trucks that isn’t looking for somebody,” Klabacka said. He adds, “if you look for a job, you will get a job.”

Starting pay runs around $1,000 a week with many trucking companies willing to pay for classes.

The stereotypical image of a truck driver and the job is changing.

Klabacka says, “do you want a drive a truck for a living? Yeah, as a matter of fact, maybe I do.”